This is a continuation of a series of website marketing checklists. Check out all Web Marketing Checklists in this series.

What this is about: This checklist covers multiple elements concerning the visual aspects of the website development. Some of the information here can be dismissed, depending on the type of site, but overall these are good points to consider during the design process.

Why this is important: The site design is essentially the first impression that someone gets when they land on your site. You may have all your usability and SEO elements in place, but if the design is lacking then your visitor's impression of you will be lacking as well. A visually appealing site can not only bolster trust and credibility, but it can make you stand out among other less-appealing sites in your industry.


What to look for:

  • Instant site identification: As soon as landing on any page the visitor must be able to tell what website they are on.
  • Crisp, clean image quality: Don't use old or blurry images. Keep them neat, clean and sharp.
  • Clean, clutter-less design: Avoid trying to do too much at once. Keep navigation and content areas clear of unnecessary clutter.
  • Consistent colors and type: Use the same colors and font styles from page to page.
  • Whitespace usage: Don't pack too much in, allow some breathing room so important areas stick out.
  • Minimal distractions: Be careful of images, animation and even links that pull the visitor into unwanted directions.
  • Targets intended audience: Make certain that your design targets your audience with appropriate colors, layout and wording.
  • Meets industry best practices: Design to be the best site in your industry. If there are industry-specific guidelines to be followed, be sure to do that.
  • Easy to navigate: Make it is easy for your visitor to find the links they need to take them to their desired pages.
  • Descriptive links: All links should accurately describe the destination page.
  • Good on-page organization: Put page information together in a logical way and keep information where it is expected to be found.
  • Easy to find phone number: Phone number should be easy to find regardless of page the visitor is on. The header is a great place for the phone number.
  • Don't link screen captures: It's not a good idea to link screen captures to other pages. Use text links or buttons.
  • Skip option for flash: If you use flash animations, have an option to skip it or turn it off all together.
  • Consistent page formatting: Use a consistent layout from page to page so the site feels like one cohesive unit.
  • No/minimal on-page styling: Use external CSS for all on-page styling. Only keep on the page what is specific for that page only.
  • Avoid text in images: Don't place quality keyword rich text in images.
  • Font size is adequate: Don't use excessively small fonts. Larger fonts increase readability of content.
  • Font type is friendly: Use fonts meant for the web, rather than fonts designed for print.
  • Paragraphs not too wide: Don't allow paragraphs to get too wide. Use absolute widths if necessary.
  • Visual cues to important elements: Be sure important links and action items stand out visually from the rest of the content.
  • Good overall contrast: Make sure text can be read (black on white) and colors don't bleed into each other.
  • Low usage of animated graphics: Avoid animated graphics unless absolutely essential to the user experience.
  • Uses obvious action objects: Calls to actions, links and subscribe buttons should be obvious at a glance.
  • Avoid requiring plugins: Don't use plugins that visitors have to download before getting the full site experience.
  • Minimize the use of graphics: Don't make your site graphic heavy to the point where the visitor is overwhelmed with visual eye-candy.
  • Understandable graphic file names: Name your images and other files in a way that makes sense if read.
    No: /images/BDJ2330.jpg
    Yes: /images/boys-denali-jacket.jpg
  • No horizontal scrolling: Make sure the design is not so wide that horizontal scrolling is required.
  • Non-busy background: Keep site background unobtrusive to the main content areas of the site.
  • Recognizable look and feel: Your site design should be distinctive to you alone. Avoid templates that are mass reproduced.
  • Proper image / text padding: Give enough room between images and text so they don't bump up against each other.
  • Uses trust symbols: Better Business Bureau, site security and other trust symbols should be in obvious (and applicable) locations.
  • Works on variety of resolutions: Test site to be sure it works on a variety of different screen resolutions.
  • Works on variety of screen widths: Test site to be sure it functions correctly on different width screens and browser windows.


Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Quite an interesting list you have written in this post. A few of them I was familiar with but several stuck out to me and made me check over my web sites, but I guess that is because I'm a coder more than a designer.

However, a good list none the less that definitely should help newer (and older) web designers.

Thanks for suggestions. I am a beginner in web design; that's why I still haven't decided about my personal blog template. This weekend I would like to work on it, I know that it is necessary; so your tips came just in time.

Like the checklist. I did have one question concerning keyword rich text with images. Are you referring to alternate text, short and long descriptions associated with the picture properties? And if so, why avoid keyword rich content? Is this now considered spam?

Thanks for the great articles!

By "avoid keyword rich content in images", I believe he means embedding text/keywords in an image or graphic.

Also, don't know if this fits in as design or usability, but a custom 404 error page is a good idea. Once I implemented that, with a little analytics, it's easier for me to see what pages people are getting errors on, and has led me to fix a few things I didn't know were broken.

@ Linda - Ryan is right, if you have good keyword rich content, then make sure it's content that can be indexed by the engines.

@ Ryan - 404 pages are an absolute and I think I covered that in the general guidelines, but it's always good to keep reminding people.

I love these tips. They are really helpful. Um.... I have to horizontal scroll to read the entire page though. Isn't that a no no?

@Bronwyn - you should only have to scroll vertically (up and down) not horizontally (side by side). If you do, then it generally will be because your screen size is smaller than the standard.

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